Editorial: Tides, traffic obey no man

Posted 12/10/20

There seems no end to the foolishness voiced by hired traffic engineers for whom the words “no apparent impact” apply to most any development and its impact on roadway congestion and …

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Editorial: Tides, traffic obey no man

Posted

There seems no end to the foolishness voiced by hired traffic engineers for whom the words “no apparent impact” apply to most any development and its impact on roadway congestion and safety.

In the latest example, a straight-faced expert told Westport’s Planning Board that the addition of a marijuana facility (first medical, now non-medical as well) to busy, four-lane, 50 mph Route 6 will scarcely be noticed from a traffic perspective.

The business will be appointment only, he said, so not a problem.

That’s quite a leap of faith, one board member remarked. Spotting a marijuana sign, won’t a fair number of Fall River to New Bedford-bound motorists decide abruptly to turn in and stock up, never mind the appointment? Given the tight parking area and driveway, might not cars then back onto the highway? And wouldn’t that be dangerous?

Won’t happen, was the reply.

For Westport Planning Board member Robert Daylor, such certainty brought to mind the wisdom of an 11th century king.

He called what he’d just heard a “King Canute kind of strategy for traffic management — By holding control over the appointments, I will hold control over the traffic.”

To demonstrate to fawning subordinates that things don’t necessarily happen merely because the king decrees them, it is said that King Canute placed his throne by the seashore and ordered the rising tide to halt. It didn’t.

Back when a marijuana company proposed setting up shop on William Canning Boulevard in north Tiverton, paid-by-the-developer traffic experts were no less confident. Yes the road is busy, the parking lot is small, plenty of customers are expected, a casino is being built across the street — but our analysis clearly shows no apparent impact.

The grand opening was followed promptly by traffic backups stretching down the road, parking lot confusion, and accidents.

The Westport location does appear to be better for this purpose than that Tiverton site — and worlds better than the place a competitor has in mind for Westport’s Central Village.

The Route 6 property is already approved for medical marijuana, is well away from residences, it sits off a wide road in a commercial district, and it is big enough for proper security and, perhaps, for parking if the appointment concept works as promised. And just maybe, the proliferation of marijuana stores may help prevent the mad rush to Westport that some imagine.

But Westport, every town, would be wise to heed King Canute’s counsel and Tiverton’s example when considering traffic. Just because the engineers proclaim “no apparent impact” does not make it so.

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.